Super Bowl Review — What Went Right/Wrong for Both Teams


By Cooper Woodward, Reporter

The Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in dramatic fashion in the Super Bowl, with QB Matthew Stafford leading a game-winning drive that ended with a Stafford-Kupp touchdown to take the lead with a minute left for Joe Burrow and the Bengals to attempt to lead a game-tying/winning drive. On a 3rd down and 1, Joe Mixon attempted to run up the middle for a first down, but IDL Aaron Donald held him back, forcing a 4th down, where Donald forced an incomplete pass from QB Joe Burrow, ending the game and giving the Rams their second-ever Superbowl. And just like that, the 2021 NFL season came to an end with an amazing game. The Bengals Cinderella story came oh-so-close to becoming complete, and players like Mathew Stafford and Odell Beckham Jr. finally got themselves rings after long and difficult careers.

A lot happened during the 2021-2022 season’s finale. In this article, I’m going to break it down, mentioning what went wrong for both the Bengals and the Rams, but also what went right for both teams.

What went right for the Cincinnati Bengals

Despite the struggles the Bengals had during the game, their defensive line did all they could to keep themselves going. A line that consisted of Sam Hubbard, D.J. Reader, B.J. Hill, and Trey Hendrickson is not your typical all-star line. But throughout the season and in the Super Bowl, they performed at a high level with two out of four guys recording sacks and all the guys I just mentioned having 3 QB hits respectively, with a combined 8 tackles for loss. This group has a lot to be proud of, both during the Super Bowl and through the entire postseason, given they kept the Bengals in each of their four playoff games. They intercepted Ryan Tannehill 4 times, rushed Derek Carr to throw a game-ending INT in the wildcard round, and sacked Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes a combined 4 times in the conference championship game. 

What went wrong for the Cincinnati Bengals  

There was a lot that went wrong on both sides of the ball, but the most glaring issue and the issue a lot of people (myself included) saw coming was the offensive line vs the Ram’s defensive line. As predicted, Aaron Donald and co. had a field day against the offensive line of the Bengals. To be fair, there is a very small population that could block both Donald and guys like Leonard Floyd and Von Miller effectively. There’s something I like to call the Aaron Donald effect, which is when opposing teams put more guys on Donald because he is just so good and talented. The Rams exploited this weakness to full effect against a sub-par Cincinnati offensive line, with guys like Von Miller and Leonard Floyd getting a ton of QB hurries. ESPN’s Jeff Saturday made a good point by saying that the Bengals wouldn’t be where they were without rookie receiver Jamar Chase, but in that game, having an OT like Penei Sewell would benefit more than Chase. All of this paired with an inconsistent secondary vs the star-studded Rams receiving core was a disaster waiting to happen for the Bengals.  

What went right for the Los Angeles Rams 

A lot went right for the Super Bowl champions. I could probably write a whole new article on what went right for them, but today I’m only narrowing in on two things, the first of which is their passes rush. Obviously, they have the freak of nature Aaron Donald, who’s a seven-time 1st team all-pro and an eight-time Pro Bowl player, but they also have less-known guys like Leonard Floyd, who has emerged as a superstar despite essentially living in the shadow of Aaron Donald, and Von Miller, a seasoned veteran with both the Denver Broncos and the Rams. Against a bad offensive line, those three had a field day, combining for five of the seven sacks the Rams defense had on Joe Burrow. Another thing they did well was taking advantage of a poor Bengals secondary, with their receiving core consisting of guys like Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. Kupp had an insane season, becoming a Pro Bowler and winning the receiving triple crown, OPOY, the Super Bowl MVP award, and a first-team all-pro in one season. Beckham had some issues in Cleveland with the Browns before being released, then signing with the L.A. Rams, where he thrived as a 1-2 punch with Kupp. 

What went wrong for the Los Angeles Rams 

This was surprising to see in the game on Sunday, but the secondary (CBs and safetymen) of the Rams were incredibly inconsistent. I say that’s weird to see because they arguably have one of the best in the NFL, with guys like Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams headlining the lineup. Despite having the objectively best secondary in football against an incredibly young receiving core, the Bengals held their own against Ramsey and Williams, with Higgins scoring two touchdowns against Ramsey as the nearest defender, Chase having a near 100-yard receiving day, and Boyd having a solid day overall. Ramsey has barely ever given up more than 50 yards against #1 receivers like Deandre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs, and D.K Metcalf. While I don’t believe this performance is the end-all-be-all for Ramsey and co., it’s definitely something to pay attention to and look at when next season comes around.